ACL Spotlight: !!!

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We continue our ACL coverage this week with the Brooklyn via Sacramento band !!! (properly pronounced as Chk Chk Chk or Pow Pow Pow). 

Let’s start off this business with a memory of a little-known Ghostland Observatory making their mark on the dusty fields by encouraging thousands of people to dance off the previous night’s hangover.  Well, this year, I predict that it will be !!! doing the moving and shaking this year with all the fans, as they’ve been doing it on a small scale for quite awhile.

Imagine their combination of horns, guitar, percussion and electronics blasting out of those mammoth festival speakers, as you casually sip on your beer.  Then Nic Offer shakes and jives all across the stage, further encouraging you to feel the rhythm; you’ll be shaking it in no time at all.

The band have several CDs to their name, and personally I’d go with the funky grooves off of their self-titled debut, but other really dig the work of Louden Up Now, which came out shortly after the Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard single.  It gave a new twist on the band’s grooves by adding a little more electronic push to the music.

Hopefully we’ll all get a chance to preview some of the new tracks the band has been working on as of late, but if not, we’re at least guaranteed a good long set of sweat-dripping, hip-shaking funk-rock to get our hearts racing and our feet moving in the early afternoon.

!!! take to the AMD Stage at 2:00 PM.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/intensify.mp3]

Download: !!!- Intensify [MP3]

New Tunes from Kings of Convenience

kings_of_convenience_bTime is nearing for the arrival of the soft-spoken Kings of Convenience album Declaration of Dependence.  Said album comes ashore on October 20th, though you can get the latest single “Mrs. Cold” if you search around the world.  The song we have here for you is off the “Mrs. Cold” single, and also appears on the band’s upcoming record.  We’re excited for this, as you should be too!

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/02.-Freedom-and-Its-Owner.mp3]

Download: Kings of Convenience – Freedom and It’s Owner [MP3]

Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio

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Rating: ★ · · · ·

Long ago, upon the heels of Faces Down, Sondre Lerche was quite the boy-wonder many fans of simple pop had been looking for all their lives.  His lyrics weren’t to abstract, and his handle over melody made his innocence resonate with every listener.  Here we are now, 2009, and he’s releasing Heartbeat Radio to great anticipation.  How has he grown up, and where does it leave him now?

First track, “Good Luck,” is something of a statement song, as grandiose symphonic arrangements are placed throughout the tune.  Here is Sondre, sounding as hypnotic as ever, yet something seems a bit off from it all.  Guitars are really low in the mix, placing the emphasis more on the orchestral arrangements instead of his own songwriting.  But this backs into “Heartbeat Radio,” which comes off with the sensible delivery Lerche has always carried with him.  It’s as close to the proximity of his earlier work as you are likely to get on this album.  And that is the problem that lies at the heart of this album overall; Sondre seems to have indulged his fancy one too many times, forgetting that the quality of his tunes lived in the simplicity of his arrangements.

Songs like “I Cannot You Go” or “Pioneer” are pleasant enough songs, but they don’t seem to have the passion in the vocals and the lyrics that used to make Sondre so appealing to the masses that followed him.  More so, he’s placed some unforgivable moments in here, such as “If Only,” which seems like a half-assed Jack Johnson impression. At the middle of the album listeners will possibly start to lose interest, as the creativity seems to have stalled around this mark.

Diehard fans should not be discouraged by all this, as there are definite moments in the album when you can see the maturity of Sondre Lerche has led to some new elements that you might find pleasing. “Words & Music” seems as if it was penned in the bouncing fashion of a classic Spoon song. The chorus, of course, brings back that memorable croon, but the overall bounce of the song is somewhat of a trip into new territory for Sondre. “Almight Moon” is similar in the fact that it seems radio to be an instant radio hit, not to see it doesn’t have that trademark touch of Lerche, but this is probably one of the more commercial tunes he’s written.

But, for all the decent moments, the most lasting impression of this album is that there isn’t really an impression left for you by the completion of the album.  In the past, he’s made some missteps, but he’s always had certain songs with a “wow” factor that have kept you salivating for more tunes, but this time around, the album seems devoid of genius.  Overall, Heartbeat Radio is a boring effort that lacks a lot of the panache of previous efforts by Sondre Lerche.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/05-heartbeat-radio.mp3]

Download: Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio [MP3]

More Tunes from The Swell Season

large_swellseasonNot even a week ago we brought you new music from The Swell Season, and here we are again with yet another track to offer up to you. This tune is the opener to Strict Joy titled “Low Rising,” and you’re sure to love this one just as much as you loved the first single the band released. Don’t forget, the album hits stores on October 27th courtesy of Anti.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/low-rising.mp3]

Download: The Swell Season – Low Rising [MP3]

The Clean – Mister Pop

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s hard to tell where a band will end up after remaining rather quiet since 2001, yet alone to see how they’ve progressed in a career that has spanned over three decades.  Still, New Zealand’s The Clean have left their jangling influence all over the map, and with the release of Mister Pop on Merge Records, they look to reestablish themselves in your listening rotation, if they aren’t there already, as they probably should be.

Of course, the jangling has diminished a bit, and we have seen the band expand their sound, completing the expansion of their sound to include slow surf-psychedelia such as they do on the album’s opener “Loog.”  Despite the lack of a proper lyrical track, you cannot really pull yourself away from the song. “Simple Fix” works similarly, though it has a standard beach appeal to the instrumental, while the other instrumental track wavers on a more space-influences structure.

Then they move on to the meat and potatoes in “Are You Really on Drugs.”  Although the lyrics may resonate with many, there’s not much to them overall, but what will get listeners is the subdued strumming with the hollow, yet moving, vocals that seemingly bounce off the background of the song.

Never satisfied the group goes into a territory that will seem familiar to everyone, combining that classical indie guitar sound that distinctly belongs to them along with the female backing vocals.  You’ll also find one of the staples of the album inside “In the Dreamlife U Need a Rubber Soul” as guitar licks cut through the blank spaces; it’s something that the band uses to near perfection on this album, without ever overdoing it.

“Back in the Day” and Factory Man” are two of the strongest songs on the album, stuck right smack dab in the middle.  Vocals are delivered in that classic Lou Reed delivery circa “I’m Waiting for the Man” while the rest of these songs come off like similar artists such as Comet Gain.  There is something in these songs that immediately makes them feel familiar, as if you’ve been listening to them all of your life, and in fact, you probably have.  Whether or not The Clean have influenced hundreds of bands will never be discovered, but if they didn’t, then people have done a great job approximating their sound without admitting to common thievery.

An odd bit in the midst of the album is “Tensile.”  The vocoder effect used just sort of throws off the mood momentarily, although it clearly portrays the expanding horizons of the group.  Still, it’s a bit off, which is somewhat shocking, as the rest of the album has seemed to fit perfectly up until this point. But rest assured that the group close the album properly with “All Those Notes,” a song drenched in the electronic cloak of a keyboard. Such a slow number as this is a fitting end to Mister Pop, an album filled to the brim with interesting listens you’ll keep coming back to as you graciously thank the heavens for the return of The Clean.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/3-the-clean-in-the-dreamlife-you-need-a-rubber-soul.mp3]

Download: The Clean – In the Dreamlife you Need a Rubber Soul [MP3]

New Tunes from The Clientele

clientele2Once again, tracks are slowly leaking from the upcoming album Bonfires on the Heath by UK wunderkind The Clientele.  Surely, you’ve heard of them, but in case you haven’t we’re offering this new track.  Their special dream-inducing psychedelia is present here, and it only builds the anticipation as we head towards the October 6th release date on Merge Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/The-Clientele-Harvest-Time.mp3]

Download: The Clientele – Harvest Time [MP3]

New Tunes from The Drums

thedrums-domsmith-photo01We’ve been loving The Drums since we got their self-titled debut EP, but now they are gearing up to release a new EP titled Summertime! The EP features three brand new tracks for those of you that had the debut, but if not, there are 6 brand spanking new songs, one being that sweet tune “Let’s Go Surfing.”  But, now we have a new number for you, this one featuring an adorable female vocal with that bouncing bass line the band utilize so well. You can get a hold of the EP at Twenty Seven Records.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/1-04-Dont-Be-A-Jerk-Jonny-1.mp3]

Download: The Drums – Don’t Be a Jerk Jonny

Chuck Ragan – Gold Country

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

As the frontman of Hot Water Music, you expect Chuck Ragan to be an angst-ridden misanthrope, but you’ll find a different man writing the tunes on his second solo album, Gold Country.  Chuck has called this work some of the most mature music he has created to date, and such a statement is quite visible upon repeated listens.

As you begin listening to this album, you get the feeling that a lot of the songs are left over from the period when Chuck wrote Feast or Famine, his first solo outing. “For Goodness Sake” features his throaty vocals that bare witness to his past.  Similarly, “Glory” has that old hoedown feeling, with a quick-step guitar strumming accompanied by an equally paced violin.  But, you can notice stark differences on this go round–even by listening to these two songs.  For one, both feature female backing vocals, adding a richer texture to the compositions, which makes them seem like more complete songs, as opposed to simple acoustic tracks. “Glory” also brings in a gang vocal of “al la las” near the end of the song.   It’s these slight steps up that give brith to the maturity of which Mr. Ragan has spoken.

Some of the songs on this album also appear to wear the influence of Chuck flexing his muscle on the road with the Revival Tour, a collection of punk troubadours gone punk.  Yes, Chuck already has an experience in this realm, but there are definite moments that recall Tom Gabel of Against Me, such as “Done and Done.”   This is by no means a knock, but it demonstrates how experience can bleed into our musical development.

Listening to a song like “10 West” you begin to realize that you sort of feel a strong connection to the Chuck Ragan.  He’s talking about some sort of roadtrip that recalls various memories, but the recording manner that involves multiple moments of gang vocals makes you feel as if you are at home with Chuck Ragan.   You can feel yourself sitting in the room with him as he writes this song for you and all your memories.

And in the end of it all, this is a Chuck Ragan.  The old screamer always seems to get personal when he picks up the acoustic, and his lyrics never seem to come off interesting.  Most people might not call it the most remarkable thing ever, but you can see that he’s been making steps to progress, and most (like me) don’t even think he needs to.  He’s included touches of piano, violin, femal backing vocals and other ornate details that add to the texture of this wonderful album.  Gold Country is definitely an example of a growing Chuck Ragan.

A.A. Bondy – When the Devil’s Loose

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

A.A. Bondy began to steadily make waves with critics after the release of his debut American Hearts.  A short while later, he is releasing When the Devil’s Loose on Fat Possum Records.  It’s a record that lives up to the expectation of the record’s title, but in the most stripped down fashion that could only accompany A. A. Bondy.

Just when you think your music player is broken, the soft-spoken strumming of “Mightiest of Guns” comes into play through your speakers.  Bondy seems to whisper just as quietly into the microphone, his soothing voice calmly uttering at those lowly decibels.  Such an approach is utilized throughout the remainder of the album, to various effects.

“When the Devil’s Loose” begins, you can hear the meandering accompaniment of low-lying drums and various guitar chords that one finds on a M. Ward song.  It easily could be seen as knocking off another great, but the story telling of Bondy is what seems to differentiate his songwriting from that of Matt Ward. He seems deeply rooted in the history of Southern storytelling, and in doing such, he tells his tales with the passion of an overly involved narrator.  Even during “Oh the Vampyre,” which seems to be sort of a childish ditty, there is an element of struggle, not only in the lyrics, but in the vocals. 

Midway through arrives the standout track “I Can See the Pines are Dancing.”  One of the more intriguing things about this song is the baritone voice echoing in the background of the song.  It works well with Bondy’s silky cum gruff vocals.  It’s this sort of touch to an otherwise simplistic approach that manages to grab A.A. Bondy from the relatively mundane world of folk/Americana/etc and push him even further than some of his peers.

Listening to songs like “False River,” the album’s seventh track, you can still see these little flourishes and intricate details, and one can only assume that more will unfold as repeated listens come to be.  Walking to the end of this album, you never seem to hear the same thing twice; this is an attribute many people ascribe to great records.  However, the pacing of the album is painstakingly slow, and while some will find this aspect appealing, it’s difficult to reach the end of the album as a whole due to the distinctive style and relatively static vocals.  While those may seem to some as desperately critical aspects, rest assured that beneath the folds of every tune on here lies a secret waiting for each and every listener.  All due to the hard work of A.A. Bondy on When the Devil’s Loose.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/06-I-Can-See-the-Pines-are-Dancing.mp3]

Download: A.A. Bondy – I Can See the Pines are Dancing [MP3]

New Tunes from The Raveonettes

raveAs the new album In and Out of Control by The Raveonettes draws closer to its October 6th release date, more and more tracks begin to hit the Internet.  “Last Dance,” hitting today is surely one of the highlights for what is shaping up to be a great album.  I’ll admit, I’ve been a half-hearted fan for awhile, but after hearing the clever-pop goodness here, reminiscent of a female fronted Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I’m sincerely stoked.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/The-Raveonettes-Last-Dance.mp3]

Download: The Raveonettes – Last Dance [MP3]

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